Shipping off Bristol | Joseph Walter | 1834
A painting showing West Indiamen alongside Bristol docks on the Avon. The ship in the foreground on the left is being unloaded with timber from America. Some of the unloaded timber floats on the water. A man can be seen standing on a pile of floating planks as one of them is being lowered down from the ship. A figure leans over the stern to manage the process. The ship may be having her mast stepped. There is another pile of wooden planks floating on the starboard side of the ship. Two men in a rowing boat are using a pole and hook to catch a smaller pile of planks floating in the foreground on the right. The barge on the right is a Severn trow which conveyed a lot of cargo up and down the river, and, as in this painting, would have brought iron down the Severn. The ‘trow’ was a wooden sailing ship only used on the River Severn. By the 19th century there were several hundred sailing between Bristol and Wales. The trow was developed so that heavy, bulky, cargoes of coal, grain, salt or quarried stone could be carried in relatively shallow water. Over the years they carried many different cargoes, everything from clay tobacco pipes to teapots. Despite the air of stillness and calm the painting does show other river activity against a backdrop of the buildings of the city on the left.
Joseph Walter was an English marine painter in oils and watercolour, working at Bristol and Portishead. He gained notice for his portrayals of Brunel's steamships Great Western and Great Britain.
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